Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Invisible Writing

Seasons of the Heart”. That’s the name of the book just next to me while I was laboring to blog, hunched over the keyboard, eyes darting around looking for ideas. Written and compiled by Paul C. Brownlow, it also features the art of Charles Yosocki. Published in 1997, the book celebrates the perennial renewal of the four seasons, characterizing each one in turn as:
  • spring as the seasons of joy & happiness;

  • summer as the seasons of love and friendship;

  • autumn as the seasons of peace and thanksgiving;

  • winter as the seasons of faith and hope.

Upon further inquiry, I learned that my wife has bought the book at a library book sale. After reading some of the passages, I find that they are congruent with the concept of happiness and heroism that I’ve blogged previously. Here are some excerpts that I would like to share for both the eloquent stylish writing and the profound meaning and yet simple truism that the verses radiate:

… Happiness consists not of having, but of being; not of possessing, but of enjoying … Happiness represents a peaceful attunement of a life with a goal. It can never be made by the individual, by himself, for himself. It is one of the incidental by-products of an unselfish life … The greatest of the world’s heroes could not by any series of acts of heroism do as much real good as any individual living his whole life in seeking, from day to day, to make others happy.” -- Seasons of Happiness by William George Jordan

And you can take my word that the accompaniment of the beautifully drawn images is just amazing. What a pleasant surprise and what keen eyes my wife has for picking up such a gem.

And before that during a break in the Dharma talk that I was attending tonight, I learned of this writing level called invisible writing from the January 1994 issue of Writer’s Digest that any worthy writer should aspire to. Written by William G. Tapply on how he has learned his craft from his father, himself a writer, he related how his father summed up the art of invisible writing in the following words:

Don’t try to impress your reader with how cleverly you write. These fancy words, all these adjectives and adverbs and vocabulary words, all they do is call attention to you. You don’t want your reader aware of your writing at all. If you do your job, you’ll have them thinking about your ideas, your arguments, your characters, or whatever it is you’re trying to communicate. If someone tells you, “Wow, that’s great writing,” you know you’ve failed.

Hmm, have I been doing that? Agonizing over which word to use in order to impress the readers of my blogs as to the breadth of my vocabulary? Changing the context in order to suit a particular word? All at the expense of letting the readers enjoy the story?

At first read, it does seem counter-intuitive that being complimented on a great piece of writing is no compliment at all. However, on reflection, isn’t that our common affliction, forsaking substance for the form? Writing is just a means to an end, which is the idea, the message, carried in the writing. We would not want to embed the idea so deep in verbiage that it is usurped by the embellishment, the flowery prose and the pretentious phraseology.

Clear. Concise. Unpretentious. These are the hallmarks of invisible writing. That’s my take of the article. While my encounter with the idea of invisible writing is a pleasant surprise, that ‘Seasons of the Heart” turns out to be an epitome of invisible writing in my reckoning is equally pleasant and surprising.

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